“In praise of football” would have been the most appropriate heading of this reflection. However, the realization of the global symbolism of today’s meeting in Helsinki, Finland of two great world leaders of Russia and the United States of America, compelled a deeper introspection of the thematic area. There are obviously four dominant issues that would play out in any conversation between the World powers from the East and West and these issues revolve around such phenomenal nations of China, Britain in addition to the duo of Russia and the United States of America.
Whereas the United States under the current political formation headed by the Republican Donald Trump, is at war with China on issues of trades, the British and Russian political divides are torn apart by the diplomatic warfare that escalated with the recent poisoning of the double agent and his daughter somewhere inside of the united kingdom.
A logical fallout from that initial hullabaloo over the suspected Russian poisoning gambit inside of U.K is that someone has actually died from the poisoning.
In fact, the media in the USA has linked the spies from Russia with both the poisoning incident in Britain and the attempted hacking into the campaign data of the democrats in the USA during the last election. It would be recalled that Hilary Clinton and her campaign team have been up in arms against the current President of USA over suspected infiltration of the Russians through cybercrime during the campaigns that heralded the election.
Many top appointees of Donald Trump have fallen by the way side as a result of an independent probe of this Russian nexus in the election that took place that brought in the current political family that run the White House. This interesting nexus constituted the kernel of the news report done by the New York Times recently (exactly on July 15th 2018).
Ironically, the diplomatic verbal warfare between Britain and Russia escalated only few days to the commencement of the just ended world cup which was hosted by Russia. Understandably, football may have mediated a softer approach at using diplomacy to resolve hot political discord. In the wake of the poisoning incident in Britain, the British government successfully lobbied the European Union and the United States on the need to take steps to sanction Russia for committing what is now regarded by Theresa May of Britain as an act of aggression by Russia against the United Kingdom.
Several nations in the European Union were sympathetic to the British view point and followed this sympathy with numerous diplomatic expulsions. Donald Trump shocked his pessimistic critics when his administration sacked 60 Russian spies away from USA over the poisoning case in Great Britain. Also, Britain ruled out any top level participation at the World cup in Russia by her politicians as a way of remonstrating and protesting with and against Vladimir Putin over the alleged indiscretion of attacking persons within the borders of the U.K. by security forces embedded in Russia. At a point before the world cup in Russia, the media went to town with stories of possible security threats during the World Cup.
Yours faithfully was in the United Kingdom for a two-weeks holiday just before the World Cup and so I followed up the media reportage of these fears and apprehensions that if Russia can export poisonous chemicals to hunt down political opponents of the powerful Russian leader it therefore follows that football fans are not safe in Russia during the mundial. There were existential fears that some nations that qualified to participate in the soccer fiesta in Russia would withdraw but as hours turned to days, it became clear that no team will risk the sanction by FIFA to play political gambling with football which is generally viewed as being higher in value than mere mundane politics.
All the teams from around the world that qualified indeed participated. Even top leaders of European politics whose national teams qualified participated including the just dethroned holders – Germany. At the end of this year’s mundial, the general opinions of most observers is that the Russians delivered to the world one of the best World Cup tournaments in history. President Vladimir Putin, the strong man of Russian politics, has invariably scored a major diplomatic goal by staging one of the most hospitable soccer fiestas of modern times. Even stranded fans from Nigeria are been airlifted courtesy of a Russian non-governmental organization. This is contrary To the claims just before the kick off of the tournament that Russians are xenophobic.
To underscore the feat attained by staging the event, Russian football has dramatically gained global reputation because of the fantastic standards of participation the players displayed which saw them crossing to quarter finals mileage which even football giants like Germany and Argentina couldn’t attain. All African footballing nations that qualified lost out at the preliminary even when a largely black dominated French team eventually won the cup against the highly motivated and cared Croatia. In addition to the phenomenal performance of Russian soccer team, Mr. Gianni Infantino, the president of federation of international football (FIFA) was full of praises for Russia.
Speaking at FIFA’s closing press conference of the four-week cup, the FIFA president said: “For a couple of years, I was saying this would be the best world cup ever, today I can say it with more conviction because I lived it and you lived it. It is the best World Cup ever.” Also, British fans who had expressed anxieties over security concerns regarding the World cup started trooping in to watch the competition when news reached them that contrary to the insinuations in the political firmaments of Britain that there could be security concerns, the World Cup in Russia went on for four weeks without a single violence. Football has indeed successfully deflated the atmospheres of fears and tensions that were generated by the alleged indiscretion of the Russian security to embark on the deadly assignment of poisoning a big enemy of the Russian leader who has in any event denied involvement.
But the fall out has also denied the owner of Chelsea FC of his right of residency because of his friendship with Putin. British home office failed to renew the 5-year residency of the Russian Oligarch who owns Chelsea FC of England and has considerable huge assets inside of Great Britain.
But today, President Putin has put on a smiling face of a great football organizer even as he stepped into a hotly expected meeting with the American President.
The fact that the World Cup was a big success and the physical presence of the French leader Mr. Emmanuel Macron at the finals of the mundial which his country France won, has also added more distinguished medals of diplomatic honour for the Russian leader who would meet the United States leader over several global issues including international security, climate change and certainly the British angle on the Russian connection to the poisoning in Britain would certainly come up.
“Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough,” he said. A notable non-qualifier to the mundial in Russia is the USA and it would have been interesting if the national team of the United States of America had participated to glamourize the ongoing global conversations by Britain, Russia and the USA. Had an unlikely scenario of USA or England reaching the finals against Russia happened in Russia 2018, perhaps the World would have seen President Trump participating live in Russia or Theresa May attending to cheer on their respective teams irrespective of the ongoing political war fare between and amongst them.
Closer home, this writer wishes to ask the incompetent persons running the nation’s sports ministry to leave the Nigerian Football Federation alone to save Nigeria from the imminent hammer from FIFA.
A way out is for President Buhari to name Mr. Chris Giwa as the minister of state (youth development) so he could be politically settled to remove his over ambitious eyes from the glass house so FIFA does not suspend us from participating in football which is the only uniting phenomenon left in our tattered; politically distorted and disunited Nigeria.
This footballing task is urgent and please can someone with the influence within the unelected cabal running AsoRock should lobby them to compel Muhammadu Buhari to save our football.